Guide to Value Stream Mapping: Steps and Examples

Last updated on December 23, 2020 by

Value Stream Mapping is a tool used in business operations to ensure the efficiency of the business process. The map demonstrates the route that the product/service takes before reaching the destination. It also shows the factors that can affect the quality, and helps the provider assess if the process needs to be improved. This type of map provides many benefits than the previously mentioned, like being able to identify wastes, which greatly affects the quality of products and services.

Value Stream Mapping: Definition, Steps, and Examples

VSM Elements

This type of map is technical, and can’t be used just like that. That is why you will need to get familiar with the different elements that make a visual stream map. With that being said, we listed some of the main elements that you will usually find in a simple VSM. Take your time and get familiar with them below so you can start using this type of map as soon as possible.

vsm icons
  • Customer/Supplier – Depending on the position where it is placed, it can represent two different things. One symbol that you should always be wary of is this one. If you place the symbol on the upper left corner of the map, then it will represent the “Supplier” side. On the other hand, if you place it on the opposite side of the value stream analysis map, then it will represent the “Customer” side.
  • Dedicated process flow – The symbol is used to represent an operation procedure, machine, or department, depending on which type of industry the map is all about. It is a must that you use it for those elements that provide continuous operational functions.
  • Shared Process – In value stream mapping, you usually use this symbol to represent departments, and machines that are shared by you and others.
  • Databox – As the name suggests, this is where you place data that are required if you were to analyze a system. This symbol is placed below the icon you need to analyze inside the lean value stream mapping chart.
  • Workcell – This is a symbol that represents multiple processes that are combined into a single department.

Value Stream Mapping Use in Different Industries and Examples

Manufacturing – VSM is used in this industry to find wastes in the process. As mentioned above, wastes are unnecessary objects that hampers the success of the business process. Using the map will provide a clear view of the situation and can provide ideas on how to solve them.

value stream mapping
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Logistics – This industry needs efficiency above all else. That is why keeping an organized route is an integral part of the whole process. Hence, you will need to employ value stream analysis to pinpoint the wastes in the process which can cause deliveries to be delayed.

logistics vsm
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Healthcare – If you want to enhance the healthcare service that you provide to patients, then one way to do that is by using value stream map. Though it doesn’t have anything to do with medicine directly, it can be used to track the steps in your health protocols, and see if it needs any improvement. Aside from that, lean value stream mapping will provide a general idea about the steps that you can take to increase work efficiency, and come up with cost-efficient methods.

healthcare visual stream analysis
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Step by step Guide to Perform a Value Stream Analysis

Value stream maps are guides that you follow to improve business operations. However, a map is just a map, and can’t directly interfere with the process. That is why, if you want to implement it, you will need to perform a value stream analysis. Here you will use the map as you compass and then follow a strategic pattern to improve the business operation. With that being said, here are the value stream mapping steps that you should follow.

  1.  First things first, you will need to identify the parts that needs to be improved. After doing so, you will have to get a leadership’s buy-in.
  2. Next, identify the issues or wastes from the value stream analysis map.
  3. Set the limits of your analysis. This means that you will have to set certain points that will act as beginning and end of your analysis.
  4. Evaluate the process by examining them first hand. You can do this by doing an ocular visit to the participating department or workplace.
  5. Check the product flow. This means that you will have to watch out for the indicating factors like Flow vs. Stagnation, Push vs. Pull and Level vs. Erratic.
  6. Check the inventory report – Over and underproduction of goods is one of the main causes of wastes in a business. Use the VSM to track these factors and take appropriate actions.
  7. Make a timeline chart – Create a timeline guide using the data that you gathered, and then check the value stream map for any inconsistencies.
  8. Create future value state map – You can now find ways to improve your system, and at the same time prepare for the future. You can check the trends from time to time and come up with solutions even before the issues happen.
  9.  Lastly, create an implementation using the value stream analysis map that addresses all the visible issues that you found.


Value stream mapping is indeed a complex topic to discuss and make. That is why some users opt-out of using it, and eventually loses their business. Though how you handle a business model is totally up to you, there are certain tools that will help you manage it even better. In this case, this map is one of those tools.

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Posted by: on to Tips and Resources. Last updated on December 23, 2020

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  • I am looking for ways to improve the efficiency of our business. Glad I bumped into this post.